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In developing a family social media plan, parents should consider not only the amount of screen time their kids are allowed, but also the balance of screen time against other activities

SCIENCE & TECH: How to develop a family social media plan in the wake of landmark NY measure

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As Gov. Kathy Hochul and state lawmakers reach a deal on legislation that would regulate how content appears on kids’ social media feeds, mental health experts are sharing ways parents can set boundaries for their children to safely use apps such as TikTok and X.

“I think it’s important to start talking about social media as early as kids are interested in understanding it,” Dr. Shannon Bennett, associate director of the Center for Youth Mental Health at New York-Presbyterian, told The Post Tuesday.


In developing a family social media plan, parents should consider not only the amount of screen time their kids are allowed, but also the balance of screen time against other activities DimaBerlin – stock.adobe.com

Parents are encouraged to consume media with their kids, particularly young ones. Bennett said if that’s not possible, creating safeguards to protect children from harmful content is key.

In developing a family social media plan, parents should consider not only the amount of screen time their kids are allowed, but also the balance of screen time against other activities, such as playing outside, reading and socializing with friends. Parents should also select the sites they feel are appropriate.

“Ideally, even for older kids, parents should have access to their kids’ social media channels so they can see if there is inappropriate content or bullying or [chatter] that may be veering in a direction that the parent doesn’t feel comfortable with,” Bennett said.

“The parent is ideally aware of who their child is connecting with online, because we know it’s so easy for kids to connect with strangers or people who may not even be who they say they are,” she added.

The New York measure would require social media companies to present posts from accounts that children follow in chronological order, instead of allowing an algorithm to determine the content they see.

The companies would also need parental permission to send notifications to kids late at night and in the early morning.

This landmark initiative, which still needs to be approved by the legislature and signed into law by Hochul, wouldn’t go into effect immediately as lawmakers need to set enforcement rules. It’s also likely to face legal challenges.


Researchers have linked heavy social media usage to an increased teen risk for anxiety, depression, body image issues and sleep problems.
Researchers have linked heavy social media usage to an increased teen risk for anxiety, depression, body image issues and sleep problems. Brian – stock.adobe.com

In the meantime, Bennett recommends talking with kids about the role algorithms play in social media.

“[Teenagers] don’t like to feel like someone is controlling them or using them or tricking them,” Bennett explained. “[Have them] understand there’s an algorithm here, there are people who are making money off of you, and that’s the point of it … this isn’t just purely for your enjoyment.”

Bennett added: “The more kids understand, the more they may be able to make responsible choices for themselves.”

Researchers have linked heavy social media usage to an increased teen risk for anxiety, depression, body image issues and sleep problems — and kids are more online than ever.

Recently, 51% of US teens reported spending at least four hours a day on social media. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has recommended limits for kids’ screen time. Toddlers 18 to 24 months old should only consume educational programming, with a caregiver.

Non-educational screen time should be restricted to about one hour per weekday and three hours on weekend days for kids between 2 and 5. Older children should be encouraged to develop healthy screen habits.

Tips for setting social media boundaries for children

  • Have these conversations early and often — technology will evolve, as will kids’ interest in it.
  • Inform children about the rules. “It’s OK to say that this is something that we do together, and the channels that you watch [are] something that I will give permission for or not, because we want to make sure you’re seeing things that are appropriate,” Bennett said.
  • Talk to kids about their emotions before and after using social media. “Kids can also tune into their own feelings [and ask themselves], ‘Is this a positive way for me to be spending my time, or is there some other activity that I would prefer?’ ” Bennett reasoned.
  • Pay attention for signs of addiction, including withdrawal, avoidance, anxiety and depression. “If they have a really, really hard time getting off of social media or screens, [if] they become really, really distressed or lash out,” Bennett explained, “that is maybe a sign that a detox is important — that they need some time away from screens, maybe several days or more, to reset.”



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